Thank you, U.S. Embassy for highlighting a Fulbright Distinguished Award In Teaching grantee. There are 3 of us here in Singapore exploring education! #fulbright #fulbrightdat

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Experiencing Ramadan in Dubai- The Do’s and Don’ts and Learning On the Fly

Sometimes serendipity provides the most meaningful learning experiences; that is what happened this past week on a trip to Dubai that culminated with being in the Gulf during the ending of Ramadan. Three Fulbright teachers conducting research in Singapore planned the trip to the Gulf state to coincide with the school exam period in Singapore. Although we had some idea that Ramadan was scheduled to end during our visit to Dubai, we had no fixed date or time, only speculation. What transpired was an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the country’s culture and heritage and participate in a celebration unlike any in the United States.

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Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and Muslims observe it all over the world as a period of fasting, from sunrise to sunset. During this sacrosanct period, contemplation, worship and self-improvement take place daily. Ramadan this year began on May 6th and was expected to finish on or around June 3rd, which just so happened to coincide with our visit to Dubai. The reason the ending date is not set is that it depends on the sighting of the new moon.

Being a visitor to Dubai during this holy period made this trip an extraordinary opportunity to learn cultural competence. I made a list of several Do’s and Don’ts observed during the visit that I would like to share:

The Do’s and Don’ts & Learning On the Fly

Do… Wear conservative clothing. Although the Gulf states are known to be conservative, during Ramadan it is especially important to dress with modesty. Signs at the local mall requested for both men and women to wear clothes that covered both their shoulders and knees.

Dubia dress code

DoBe respectful and conscientious of those who are fasting. Drinking and eating out in public during daylight hours is considered distasteful. Look for designated areas that are screened off from public view.

DoParticipate in using festive greetings when interacting with locals during the Ramadan season such as Ramadan Kareem (generous Ramadan) and Ramadan Mubarak (congratulations, its Ramadan).

DoGet up early before the sunrises and participate in Suhoor, a pre-dawn meal before the fast begins for the day. Look for a’ la carte meals in restaurants to try local dishes and feast on traditional food choices.

Don’tEat, drink, or chew gum in public spaces during daylight hours. Places include in taxis, on the street, the local mall or other places where you may be in the company or proximity of someone fasting. Not only is it considered rude, but breaking this law is legally punishable.

Don’tSmoke in public places. This isn’t something that is healthy to do in the first place, but smoking during Ramadan should be avoided in public places or in outside spaces. Smoking should be done in discreet, designated areas only.

Don’tBe loud or obnoxious as Ramadan is a period of quite religious devotion and self- reflection. Be mindful of disturbing others and refrain from flamboyant displays of activity and celebration.

me at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Ramadan ended on Monday, June 3rd, called by the official moon-sighting committee in Saudi Arab. What followed in Dubai was a multi-day celebration which began with the breaking of the fast. Eid Al-Fitr ensued, a celebration lasting for three days. This period began with festivities, families gathering at hotels for meals, and visits to the mosque for prayer. We were caught up in the local celebration and viewed a spectacular display taking place at the tallest building in the world, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the night of June 3. There was a water show as well as a spectacular light presentation.

The Burj Khalifa tower was illuminated by LED lights programed with traditional symbols to include the crescent moon, eight-pointed star, the mosque, and the ruler of Dubai, the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Crowds, including families and young working men with time off swarmed the area in celebratory fashion to indulge in food and drink.

All in all, the trip was a wonderful success, enhanced by the chance opportunity of being in a country with a rich culture and the experience of being immersed in a period of religious observance followed by celebration. The travel dates were a well-timed to witness an incredible cultural practice. It was learning on the fly, and a wonderful part of the Fulbright experience that won’t soon be forgotten. So in the spirit of Eid al-Fitr, “May every year find you in good health,” or Kul ‘am wa enta bi-khair.

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Sketchnote- The Myth of the Average Student: Tips for Working With Students That Have Learning Difference

The Ministry of Education, sponsors of the Teacher Conference in Singapore, hired a sketchnote artist who attended sessions and created magnificent summaries LIVE in the back of the room. I was honored to have the artist record my session. A wonderful graphic representation of my presentation was created that will be available for viewing at the headquarters of the Association of Singapore Teachers. Here it is in captured in realtime. Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/xqDMCamDGlY via @YouTube

Infusing the Japanese Art of Reflection Into U.S. Education

Hansei, the Japanese practice of self-reflection, is a game changer in Japan & a useful activity when applied in U.S. education: 

7 Strategies for Parents: How To Support Your Child with Navigating Their Future While They Are Still in School

As a parent, you play a unique role in supporting and framing what success looks like to your young adult. Navigating the often-unchartered terrain of figuring out what the future holds can be a challenging time for both parents and children alike. Supporting your child in making decisions that impact their future is not a difficult practice, but it is just that, a practice. Follow the link for a few suggestions to aid you in offering support to your child so they are better prepared to make informed decisions about their education and career choices.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/7-strategies-parents-how-support-your-child-future-while-powell 

Infusing the Art of Japanese Reflection into Our Education Culture

Education is a dynamic process; changes often occur in policy and practice with a new administration, fluctuating school leadership, and promising educational trends. The tides change, and new mandates are made, objectives set, benchmarks layout, data to collect, and achievement to measure; but often we miss the vital opportunity to reflect on why new procedures are made and newfangled practices are warranted in the first place. It is in this reflection that purpose-driven decision making can become clear. I recently learned an important strategy centered on reflection from a Japanese teacher in Japan.

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I was in Tokyo, a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, at a three-day conference on Asian Education and International Development. The focus was on research relevant to the issues of independence and interdependence among Asian countries through the lens of education. The attendees were from over 34 countries which provided for rich information, and conversations centered on some of the central issues impacting educators across the globe and not just in Asia. It was following the three days of presentations and information sessions, just when I thought my brain could not take digest one more piece of information, that a Japanese educator taught me about hansei(pronounced hahn-say).

 

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Introducing Hansei

Hansei is the practice of “self- reflection” and is a central awareness in Japanese culture, and loosely translates into English vernacular to mean “self-awareness is the first step to improvement.” Rooted in Eastern philosophy and with a religious nuance, the art of hansei is taught in some Japanese schools, so children begin to learn from an early age to reflect on performance, irrespective of outcomes. It is also a part of the corporate business in Japan and not exclusive to education leadership models. My new colleague wanted feedback on their presentation, and like most of the participants in our “hansei group” we gave broad comments based on execution. Yet, we were pushed by our hansei guide to dig deeper and provide pointed feedback that would inform the presentation focused on areas that might need to be bolstered, supported more, or framed differently. I have never participated in such a process at a conference and will admit that it required me to think deeply about content, delivery, and overall impact. The process differed from the type of pointers I have provided colleagues in the past as this process was meant to be critical, with an awareness that we were helping to inform broader actions. Gone were the superfluous adjectives of well done or good job!

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Often in western culture, we are not receptive to receiving feedback. Two poignant reasons, time and perception. Receiving feedback usually is not done in an efficient timeframe. Hansei is conducted following the execution of an action. This process does take time, but it must be seen as a worthy use of time to be useful to all participants. Additionally, feedback for many in western culture is synonymous with criticism and taken as a personal assault on performance. Whether one is running a program, guiding policies, or directing leadership activities; the opportunity to be given feedback that quite possibly could have a meaningful impact is lost when the mindset is not open and receptive.

 

Traveling to attend educational conferences outside the United States provides learning opportunities on many fronts, and as an educator and teacher trainer, I would like to infuse more hansei into my practice. Educational practice is not static, and through the art of reflection, to understand the why behind our policies, the rationale in making decisions, and conducting a mindfulness check on what we can perhaps do differently to enhance and ultimately improve on education is a useful endeavor.

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I had the honor and pleasure of meeting the University of California President In …. Singapore

 

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Janet Napolitano today.

Dr. Napolitano was at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore speaking to stakeholders about building bridges between universities to address global challenges and connect the world through research and innovation.

Dr. Napolitano has an impressive record of public service having served as the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration from 2009-2013; she served as Governor of Arizona from 2003-2009; Attorney General of AZ from 1998-2003, and as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona from 1993-1997.

Her work as the 20th president of the University of California began in 2013. Today she leads a public university system with 10 campuses, five medical centers, three affiliated national laboratories, and a statewide program on agriculture and natural resources. An impressive feat not lost on those attending her presentation.

During the discussion portion she took questions from the crowd and masterfully answered questions on how the UC system is addressing changes in pedagogical practices, the politics of higher ed., the need of education to change to meet the needs of a society in flux, and cultivating a system of shared knowledge between NTU & University of California.

A wonderful opportunity to connect with California so far from home.